Romance Reigns in San Diego California’s North County
February 9, 2011 – From the sun-drenched beaches of La Jolla and Del Mar to the rustic romance of Rancho Bernardo, San Diego’s North County is one of Southern California’s most romantic escapes. Here, San Diego’s easy-going attitude blends with luxury and a bit of adventure to offer plush spas, decadent dining and sunsets that simply must be seen to be believed.
When it’s time for lovebirds to venture from the nest, North County offers a wide range of romantic activities and experiences. From leisurely wine tastings to thrilling rides in the clouds, the following are a few North County offerings that will have couples swooning:
Couples can rise above it all, floating up to 3,000 feet on a clear day, and drift through the clouds in a hot air balloon ride while sipping champagne and enjoying panoramic views. Due to favorable wind conditions and unique geography, San Diego’s North County is among the few places in the world where a balloon can fly both at sunrise and sunset. California Dreamin’ offers daily sunrise and sunset flights above the Del Mar coastline and picturesque Temecula Valley wine country. www.californiadreamin.com
Riding the air currents in a motor-less sailplane above San Diego’s rustic backcountry is an uplifting and unforgettable experience. Lovers can reenact the romantic silent soaring of Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair while gliding over the rugged Southern California hillsides. San Diego’s Sky Sailing offers breathtaking two-person flights above Lake Henshaw, Warner Springs and Palomar Mountain. www.skysailing.com
For a romantic detour, couples can cruise up the Historic Route 101 along the stunning North County coastline. Beginning in La Jolla and running up to Oceanside, the 25-mile route meanders along the lush Torrey Pines State Preserve and through the charming seaside villages of Del Mar, Encinitas, Leucadia and Carlsbad.
The perfect combination of warm days, cool evenings, ocean breezes, rolling hills and fertile soil make North County a premier wine-producing region. A number of wineries offer tours and wine tastings along with picnicking amid the vineyards, set in the lush California foothills.
Bernardo Winery, located in Rancho Bernardo, features a tasting room, open daily, with flights of five wines for just $8 and sells a variety of picnic items in its Winery Village Shops to accompany its red and white wines. www.bernardowinery.com
Fallbrook Winery in the picturesque town of Fallbrook produces premium wines, including cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and merlot; tours are available by appointment. www.fallbrookwinery.com
Orfila Vineyards, located in the San Pasqual Valley’s pristine agricultural preserve near the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park in Escondido, offers free tours daily; their tasting room features flights of 6 wines for $10. www.orfila.com
DINNER FOR TWO
North County’s restaurants offer unforgettable cuisine in settings that are sure to quicken the pulse of any couple. The following are just a few of the region’s most romantic dining rooms:
Located in The Grand Del Mar, Addison is San Diego’s only AAA Five Diamond and Mobil Five Star rated restaurant. Chef William Bradley’s artisanal approach to cooking, combining local ingredients with classic French techniques, earned the restaurant spot on Esquire magazine’s “Best New Restaurants” and Food & Wine’s “Best New Wine Lists” when it opened. Carefully curated by sommelier Jesse Rodriquez, the collection is housed in a 2,500 bottle, floor-to-ceiling custom glass-walled wine room nestled in the main dining room. Couples can feast over a romantic three- or four-course menu that changes seasonally to feature the freshest ingredients. www.addisondelmar.com
At the legendary Marine Room , the atmosphere is elegantly warm and inviting with the drama of the Pacific Ocean lapping against the restaurant’s picture windows. Under the helm of Executive Chef Bernard Guillas, recently named a Master Chef by the exclusive MaÃ®tres Cuinsiniers de France, the Marine Room’s Pan-Pacific flavors are combined in unique dishes, such as lilikoi kalbi glazed pompano with Asian crab risotto, served in a rarified atmosphere that makes the most of its location on the soothing shores of romance-filled La Jolla. www.marineroom.com
Located in the ultra-exclusive enclave of Rancho Santa Fe, the refined fare at Mille Fleurs has been winning awards for more than 20 years thanks to the marriage of great ingredients and classic European techniques by Executive Chef Martin Woelse. Couples can delight over sumptuous dishes such as lamb prepared two ways with tender field greens and, for dessert, a pear and goat cheese tartlet with thyme honey, cacao nibs and port wine sauce. The restaurant’s charming setting, evoking an elegant Old World cottage, provides the perfect backdrop for an intimate, romantic meal. www.millefleurs.com
At El Bizcocho , located in the Rancho Bernardo Inn, Executive Chef Travis Schultz offers diners seasonally-based tasting menus that focus on key ingredients prepared with innovative cooking styles and kitchen techniques like utilizing liquid nitrogen in molecular gastronomy. The adventurous French and Spanish influenced cuisine is sure to make culinary-inclined couples swoon with dishes such as an “Origami of Sashimi” featuring miso-cider noodles, Asian pear, persimmon, celery root and yuzu and butter poached Maine lobster with eucalyptus lime pudding, pimento smoked plantains and a kaffir butter “balloon” for dessert. www.ranchobernardoinn.com
With gorgeous views of La Jolla Cove, George’s at the Cove offers couples three options for an intimate dinner. Executive Chef Trey Foshee’s prepares creative regional cuisine in an atmosphere of contemporary elegance at George’s California Modern, where couples can sample award-winning dishes, such as local grilled octopus or cider braised pork belly and slow roasted loin with Chino Farms greens, blue cheese and caramelized onion arancini. For more easy-going couples, they can soak up the drama of beautiful La Jolla Cove al fresco at George’s Ocean Terrace or George’s Bar, both of which offer bistro fare with a sophisticated twist. www.georgesatthecove.com
ROMANTIC HOTEL RETREATS
Whether you are looking for a sumptuous seaside rendezvous or an intimate inland escape, North County’s diverse hotel offerings give couples the chance to reconnect in a variety of romantic settings.
L’Auberge Del Mar Resort & Spa completed a $25-million renovation in 2008, transforming the historic Southern California jewel into a sophisticated private coastal estate. Couples can cuddle up at a fashionable restaurant and wine bar complete with an open demonstration kitchen equipped with a televised Epicurean Studio, romantic outdoor dining and fire pits. Other resort amenities include a pool deck with open bar, private cabanas and white pearl-bottomed pool and a 4,100-sq. ft. luxury spa including a private garden-inspired couples’ suite. Fireplaces and bathtubs are also available in select resort suites. www.laubergedelmar.com
La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla has long delighted guests with 117 sumptuous guestrooms perched atop romantic La Jolla Cove. Overlooking the beautiful Pacific, the trademark pink facade and distinctive mosaic-tiled tower have become landmarks within walking distance of elegant art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and cafes. Since opening her doors in 1926, “The Pink Lady of La Jolla” has been a special hideaway for Hollywood stars seeking personalized attention, exceptional privacy and graciousness. Couples can watch the sunset over the breathtaking La Jolla coastline from the Sky Room, featuring fresh and modern California cuisine and an extensive wine list of more than 1,000 bottles, followed by a nightcap amongst the Old Hollywood romance of the Whaling Bar & Grill. www.lavalencia.com
Located in exclusive Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Valencia offers 49 luxurious suites, set on 40 acres of lush landscaping. All of Rancho Valencia’s casitas boast in-room fireplace, luxurious bathtubs and lush private garden patios, many with private hot tubs. When couples step outside their rooms, an award-winning restaurant, renowned tennis program and luxury spa await. The 10,000-sq. ft. spa is set on a 2.5-acre site and features 10 treatment rooms with private patios, five with soaking tubs; three pools; a Watsu therapy pool, and sauna and steam room. Couples can reconnect with an outdoor bath for two in a private garden suite or a fireside massage. www.ranchovalencia.com
Conde Nast Traveler recognized the Spa at the Rancho Bernardo Inn as “the number one resort spa” in the world for its outdoor garden setting that welcomes San Diego’s year-round nearly perfect weather. Rancho Bernardo Inn features 287 guest rooms with luxurious amenities, award-winning cuisine at the renowned El Bizcocho restaurant and world-class golfing for active couples. Romantic gardens and the 2,500-sq. ft. Aragon Pool and Hydro-Spa are perfect for lounging and relaxing, making the Inn an idyllic retreat. www.ranchobernardoinn.com
Set on 6 Â½ acres in La Jolla overlooking the blue Pacific, the Lodge at Torrey Pines is a luxury resort featuring 175 guestrooms, a 9,500-sq. ft. full-service spa, two restaurants including the romantic A.R. Valentien serving contemporary California cuisine, and expansive public rooms with cozy fireplaces and amazing views of the world-famous Torrey Pines Golf Course and the Pacific beyond. Couples can enjoy a heated pool with relaxing poolside cabanas, whirlpool, croquet lawn and a large terrace with chaise lounges for basking in the Southern California sun. www.lodgetorreypines.com
The Grand Del Mar, serenely nestled amidst San Diego’s Los PeÃ±asquitos Canyon Preserve, seamlessly combines the old-world charm of a Mediterranean estate with the modern luxury of an elegant resort. The result is a destination lauded by CondÃ© Nast Traveler as one of “The World’s Best Places to Stay.” Little wonder, given that the sun-drenched climate, stunning natural beauty, championship 18-hole golf course, award-winning spa and irresistible dining epitomized by Addison, Southern California’s only Five-Star and Five Diamond restaurant, make the Grand Del Mar a perfect escape for couples. www.thegranddelmar.com
Happy happens in San Diego. For more information on San Diego offerings, including exciting vacation packages and valuable coupons for attractions, restaurants and more, visit the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Web site, www.sandiego.org , or call (619) 236-1212. In San Diego, visit the International Visitor Information Center, located along the Embarcadero at the corner of West Broadway and Harbor Drive in downtown; the La Jolla Visitor Center, located at the corner of Herschel Avenue and Prospect Street in La Jolla; or the California Welcome Center, located at the Viejas Outlet Center in Alpine.